Supporting teachers’ understanding and use of the NGSS crosscutting concepts to strengthen three-dimensional science teaching and learning

(1) Focus of the Workshop and Relevance to Science Teacher Education

The Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013) represent a major effort to re-imagine school science instruction in a way that aligns with research into student learning, provides students with a window into how science is done, and prepares a new generation of scientifically literate citizens. These documents outline a vision for science learning that include three interdependent dimensions: disciplinary core ideas (DCIs), science and engineering practices (SEPs), and crosscutting concepts (CCCs) that work together so students can make sense of phenomena and design solutions to problems. These three dimensions of science learning form the foundation of “knowledge in use,” that is, scientific knowledge that prepares students to make sense of their world and function successfully in an increasingly scientific and technological society. The vision of three-dimensional science learning represents a substantial departure from traditional science teaching, and teachers need support in designing and enacting instruction that meets this vision.
The NGSS presents a special challenge for teachers because the knowledge base supporting the CCC dimension is thin; very little research exists about the role of CCCs in supporting students’ science learning or how students build ideas about CCCs over time. What research does exist typically focuses on individual CCCs alone without attending to how CCCs can be productively integrated with DCIs and SEPs to support three-dimensional learning. The Framework itself noted the lack of research into the CCCs, acknowledging that “the research base on learning and teaching the crosscutting concepts is limited” (National Research Council, 2012, p. 83), and the learning progressions (Alonzo & Gotwals, 2012) presented within the Framework and NGSS should be regarded as “hypotheses that require further empirical investigation” (National Research Council, 2012, p. 84). To begin to develop a shared understanding of the role of CCCs in supporting student understanding, how students develop their understanding of CCCs over time and across disciplines, and how to integrate CCCs into instruction, we (the proposal authors) convened an NSF-funded “Summit for Examining the Potential for Crosscutting Concepts to Support Three-Dimensional Science and Engineering Learning”.
In December 2018, the Summit brought together a group of 30 teachers, scientists, and researchers with expertise in cognition, curriculum/instruction, assessment, and teacher education to discuss the diverse perspectives that exist about the purpose, role, and future of research into how students learn about CCCs. Summit activities were designed according to three overarching goals: (1) identify areas of consensus and divergent thinking in the field, (2) to develop models to specify a theory-of-action for how CCCs support science and engineering learning, and (3) to discuss implications for future research and development activities in the areas of curriculum/instruction, assessment, nature of the CCCs, and science teacher education. The key outcomes of the summit are included in a proceedings report (Fick, Nordine, & McElhaney, 2019).
The proposed workshop will focus on sharing the CCC theory-of-action models that resulted from the Summit in order to spark conversation about the implications of these models for research and practice in science teacher education, including: preservice teacher education, in-service professional development, and informal teacher education.

(2) ASTE Membership Most Interested in the Workshop

We expect this workshop to be of broad interest for ASTE members. Many ASTE members conduct their work in US states that have adopted or adapted the NGSS, and there is considerable interest in the design, implementation, and outcomes of the NGSS. Even international members should have interest, as CCC ideas (e.g., systems, energy & matter) occupy similar niches within other standards documents (cf. German Education Standards [Bildungsstandards] (KMK, 2005)).
Participants in the CCC Summit represented a diversity of backgrounds and expertise, and working groups were free to specify which outcomes and variables were presented within their theory-of-action models. As a result, models seek to explain a range of outcomes (e.g., students’ ability to activate CCCs to make sense of phenomena, students’ ability to integrate science and engineering to solve everyday problems) through a diverse set of mediating variables (e.g., teacher moves, instructional resources, professional learning). Thus, we believe the proposed workshop will appeal to ASTE members with a range of roles, including methods instructors, education researchers, curriculum developers, informal educators, in-service professional development providers.
The crosscutting concepts have long been recognized as a part of science literacy (e.g., American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1990, 1993), but have long been implicit in science teaching and learning. This workshop will help to engage science teacher educators in a substantive, theory-driven conversation regarding how CCCs can be explicitly included in science instruction and science teacher education to better support student science learning.

(3) Expertise/Experience of the Workshop Presenters

Presenters in this workshop are organizers and participants from the CCC Summit, and the workshop is coordinated by organizers of the CCC Summit. Fick (Summit PI) has published articles for researchers (e.g., Fick, 2018; Fick & Arias, 2019) and teachers (e.g., Fick & Arias, 2017) on planning curriculum with an explicit focus on the CCCs, with a specific emphasis on the CCC systems and system modeling. Nordine (Summit co-PI) has published articles and books for researchers (e.g., Nordine, Fortus, Lehavi, Neumann, & Krajcik, 2019; Nordine, Krajcik, & Fortus, 2011) and teachers (Nordine, 2016) for teachers focusing on teaching energy as a crosscutting concept. Nordine is a co-editor of a forthcoming NSTA Press book focused on the crosscutting concepts, and Fick is a lead contributing author for this book. In addition to Fick and Nordine, workshop presenters will include CCC Summit participants who will introduce CCC theory-of-action models that they helped develop during the Summit. These participants were invited to the Summit based upon to their previous CCC-related work in research, policy, K-12 and/or university science teaching, and science teacher education. All workshop presenters have engaged in long-term thinking about the role and use of the CCCs in teaching and learning and are well-positioned to discuss implications for science teacher education.

(4) Learning Objectives for the Workshop

The workshop is intended to be an interactive session focused on supporting science teachers to better understand and use the CCCs in the context of their own instruction. To do this, we will share key outcomes from the CCC Summit and engage ASTE members in a generative conversation regarding implications for their work. Thus, the learning objectives for this workshop are intended to be generative:

1. Based on their own experience, participants will reflect upon the role(s) of the crosscutting concepts in science and engineering teaching and learning.
2. Workshop attendees will become familiar with theory-of-action models developed at the CCC Summit.
3. Workshop attendees will engage in discussion with other attendees and presenters regarding the implications of CCC Summit theory-of-action models for various areas of science teacher education.

To ensure that attendees meet the above objectives, workshop organizers will actively involve attendees small group conversations and large group discussions. During these discussions, organizers will act as facilitators to ensure broad access to conversations and discussions and to evaluate whether conversations remain focused on key learning objective and to re-direct when necessary. Toward the end of the workshop, organizers will ask attendees to identify key “take-aways” from the session that may guide their future work, and these responses will help organizers to assess the extent to which learning objectives were met.

(5) Workshop Activities/Instructional Strategies

The 2-hour workshop will include of the following activities:
1. To begin the session, attendees will be asked to briefly reflect upon their ideas/assumptions about how the CCCs may support science teaching and learning, as well as additional challenges they may bring. In small groups (3-4 people), attendees will share their ideas/assumptions and discuss how the CCCs have impacted their work as science teacher educators [15 min]
2. Workshop organizers (Fick and Nordine) will provide a brief overview of the purpose, participants, and activities of the CCC Summit. [10 min]
3. An interactive poster session will provide workshop attendees with the opportunity to interact with CCC Summit attendees to learn more about the theory-of-action models that were developed during the CCC Summit. [30 min]
4. The workshop attendees will then organize into interest groups (6-8 people) to discuss the implications of the CCC models for research and practice in various areas of science teacher education, including: preservice methods course design, in-service professional development, diversity and equity, informal science and engineering education. Discussions will take place in two rounds (20 minutes each) using the “World Café” format (Brown & Isaacs, 2005), allowing participants to participate in two interest groups. A “table host” remains through both groups to maintain continuity and ensure that second round discussions build off of the one before. [45 min]
5. In a whole group setting, table hosts will be asked to share a short summary of the discussion in their interest group. After these summaries, we conclude the session with a whole-group discussion about implications for future work. [20 min]

(6) Support to Participants After the Workshop

The CCC Summit was designed to be forward-looking and generative, similarly, this workshop is intended to foster conversations between colleagues – anchored by the outcomes of the CCC Summit – which will lead to new projects and collaborations. As one support for future work, we will provide attendees with a link to the CCC Summit Conference Proceedings, which provide more complete descriptions of the models presented during the workshop and include a summary of Summit discussions regarding future research agendas into the role of the CCCs for strengthening science learning and teaching. Additionally, we will ask for participants’ contact information (and share ours) in order to provide relevant updates in the coming year, for example, information about the release of the NSTA Press book on crosscutting concepts, on which Nordine and Fick are collaborating.